Governor Chet Culver (D-Iowa) is doing the right thing cutting the state’s budget by 10%. The projected budget shortfall is 7.1% ($565 million), so I commend him for going beyond that. I’ll set aside for the moment that he and the Legislative Democrats are the reason for the shortfall because that won’t solve the problem at hand.
The budget needs to be cut, because you can’t spend what you don’t have (unless you’re the federal government and then you drive up a deficit and print money). The way he is doing it, however, is completely asinine. Who would handle an organization’s or company’s budget like that? An across the board cut, 10% on everything? For that matter, who would handle their family’s budget that way?
“Honey, we’ve got to cut 10% out of our budget, so we’re going to do it across the board in order to be fair… and to keep it simple.”
Food – cut 10%… while that certainly can be done, we have a saying at the Vander Hart household, “nothing but second best.” So Aldi’s and Fareway here we come! We don’t need that name brand stuff. We can clip coupons. Don’t eat out, etc.
Gas – 10%, certainly we can consolidate trips, look for the best gas deal, inflate our tires (Thanks President Obama for the suggestion!). We as a family have made the decision to not drive our minivan on longer trips… it saves gas and promotes family togetherness. It also helps us practice our peacemaking skills with our kids.
Mortgage – cut 10%, umm… wait I guess the bank wouldn’t like that.
And on down the line… as a family we would make priorities. We would cut out what is discretionary, what wasn’t essential. We would sacrifice were we could. There are just some things you can’t cut across the board because of the consequences involved. Sure I can choose to make a 10% cut in my mortgage (assuming refinancing wasn’t an option), and the bank can then choose to foreclose.
Culver’s approach is lazy and dumb… it goes against conventional wisdom that when you cut you do so with discretion. You cut education when the school session is already in progress, you guarantee property tax increases. You lay off state troopers, you endanger public safety. You cut 400 employees from the Department of Human Services, you place children in abusive homes at risk. You put those currently in DHS operated facilities at risk. You take away bed space from the mentally ill who need to be institutionalized. You take options away from juvenile court judges who may need to order kids to placement.
Some of these departments to make this cut have to lay workers off, and I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. The private sector is already having to deal with layoffs, but let’s prioritize. What is it that the state has to provide, that only the state can provide?
Eliminate I-Jobs… it isn’t working. Eliminate the power fund. Kill the film tax-credit program, slash the Department of Economic Development, etc. Basically get rid of what isn’t working and trim the fat. Now is a great time to do that. Actually streamline the government.
Governor Culver, do the hard work of going line by line through the state budget if necessary, call a special session of the General Assembly, listen to GOP feedback not just your own party, and actually use some common sense. I know it’s a lot to ask.